Birdwatchers are a mixed bunch.
From dedicated experts with decades of experience, to kiddies who like ducks.
One popular stereotype is the twitcher. A birder, usually a man, who rushes about the place to see as many birds as possible. I once tried to twitch a lesser kestrel, but failed. My father has twitched a few times.
Some twitchers, though, are very dedicated. I know a teacher who only does supply work, so that he has the freedom to drop everything and dash off to see an interesting bird at the buzz of a pager.
Generally seen with mild indulgence, even by other birders, twitchers are a competitive bunch, but in a civilised sort of way - lining up to take turns at a scope for a glimpse of a single rare warbler, keeping to footpaths and generally behaving themselves.
Some, though, are less orderly. At the very top end of twitching, people who have given up jobs and travelled tens of thousands of miles around the UK to push their year lists to the limit (383 in a year is the highest I have heard of, which leaves my current ten dozen in the dust) are also not above tossing around a few writs to challenge the validity of other twitchers' lists.
That's all showbiz, though. Not a real problem, more of an entertainment for those of us who struggle to reach 150.
It's how they get their birds, though.
I recently discovered how one of the UK's "top" twitchers, a man I had previously heard of spoken only with respect, ensured that he got at least a glimpse of the rarities he targeted.
At a twitch that happened on private land, the landowner (a farmer with experience of rarities on his land) had posted signs asking birdwatchers to keep to footpaths and the edges of fields with crops. The twitchers respected his wishes, searching for the bird at range, peering into ploughed ruts with bins and scopes.
This twitcher, though, tramped back and form across the field until he flushed the bird, allowing a brief glimpse of the departing bird, a tick in his book, and leaving an enormous dent in the good will that twitchers rely on to get to see most of their birds.
At another twitch, the same person pushed chest-deep into bushes, again to flush the target bird and leave immediately.
That is just plain selfish, denying other birders (whether they keep lists or not) a chance to see something special, and I would like to reassure readers that the vast majority of even the most OCD twitchers are not like this.
Oops, got to go...